Another of the great 60’s designers is probably one of the least known but certainly no less of an icon of the swinging 60’s, Rudi Gernreich.
Rudi Gernreich was born on August 8, 1922 in Vienna Austria. He was the son of a hosiery manufacturer, and came from an intellectual Viennese family. He fled the Nazis with his parents in the late 1930s and the family settled in Los Angeles. He became an American citizen in 1943. He would become one of the most revolutionary designers of the 20th century.
Gernreich studied dance and was a member of Lester Horton's modern dance troupe before entering the world of fashion. He moved into fashion design via fabric design, and worked closely with model Peggy Moffitt and photographer William Claxton. He would push the boundaries of "the futuristic look" in clothing over three decades and, using a dancers practice clothes as inspiration, particularly leotards and tights, he produced pared down body-clothes in the 1960s.
Gernreich celebrated the unencumbered movement of the body and conceived body-based dressing with coordinated underwear. This interest in liberating the body surfaced in his early swimwear designs of 1952, in which he eliminated the complicated boned and underpinned interior construction. He revived the knitted swimsuit of the 1920s, which he then elasticized to follow the shape of the body. He continued experimenting with these knitted designs with his knitted tube dresses of 1953.
Gernreich was interested less in the details and decorations of clothes and more in how they looked in motion. By the 1950s he was designing relaxed, comfortable clothes made of wool, jersey and other stretchable fabrics, usually in solids or geometric shapes and checks. During the 1960s he went on to use unusual fabrics and bold color combinations such as orange and blue or red and purple.
In 1972, he designed Warners' "No-Bra Bra," which was made of sheer, stretchy fabric and had no metal wires or clips. It was pulled on over the head. Like most of Gernreich's creations, it created a brief stir and then quietly disappeared.
An exhibition of his work at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2003 hailed him as "one of the most original, prophetic and controversial American designers of the 1950s, '60s and '70s." Rudy Gernreich died on April 21, 1985.